Since the dawn of time people have read, studied andenjoyed
books in which the hero or heroes fall from grace.No matter who
those heroes are- the human race in The Bible,the demon prince Lestat
in Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles”or a certain Thane of Cawdor in
“Macbeth”- sin plays a greatpart in all of their downfalls and
subsequent ressurections.And the three main characters in
Hawthorne’s “The ScarletLetter”-Dimmesdale, Chillingsworth, and
Hester Prynne- are no different.
All three characters are flung from
the normal rolesthat society has laid upon them- minister, housewife,
doctor-into new roles- sinner, whore, and vengance crazed
sadist.These new roles are not necessarily apparent to all in
town.However, even though the townspeople do not know of
thesinners, God does. And in God’s eyes, whose sin was greater?That,
I cannot answer.
But in this mere mortal’s opinion, thesin of
Chillingsworth far outdid the sin of Dimmesdale orHester Prynne, for
Chillingsworth’s sin was one of revengeand one of secrecy. He was not
driven by an anger at his ownsin, but by the sin of others. He used
deception andmanipulation to make the life of another miserable. He
wasnot flung from society’s view as if he were a dirty secretlike Hester
was; he was embraced by it.
However, his sin didtake it’s toll. He was
disfigured horribly and became atwisted man, scarred by sin. He also
was robbed of thepleasure of destroying Dimmesdale which was his
reason forliving. He died shortly after Dimmesdale.
however, was the complete opposite ofChillingworth in that her sin
gave her life, not destroyedit. She took her punishment and embraced
it, using it torebuild herself not as a pathetic sinner, but as a pseudo-
saint. At first, the town shunned her as a sinner. However,after they
saw that she was good, and her sin was of love,the same town
embraced and loved her.
Her sin drew her moredeeply into the society
of Boston than she ever was before.And when her time to die came,
she did so with honor. HesterPrynne – sinner and saint.However,
Hester’s sin was shared.
Whereas she was asinner on the outside and a
saint on the inside, ArthurDimmesdale is the reverse, both literally
and figuratively.On the outside, a town minister, inside an adulterer.Of allthe characters, Dimmesdale is the most pitiful. A man sopenitent
that he whips himself, but so afraid that he cannotconfess his sin; a
sin which takes a great toll on him.
Hiscountenance is disfigured in
the shape of what we assume tobe an A on his chest (that or a cow
shaped birthmark) and hissoul is eaten by his guilt. Arthur does later
confess, and aweight is lifted from his being. And with that weight
gone hefinally dies in peace.Sin has always been and will always be
a part of human life and literature.
And as long as there is sin, people
willreact to it in different ways; some will hide it, some willembrace it,
some will rot from it. But no matter how the sin is handled or dealt
with, it will always leave it’s mark. Forme, the mark of sin will always
be symbolized as a scarlet A on a black background.